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Cross    by Ken Bruen order for
by Ken Bruen
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Distinctively sharp and cynical in its Irish neo-noir style, Cross, the latest Jack Taylor novel from veteran author Ken Bruen, picks up where the previous Priest ended. Cody, Jack Taylor's surrogate son remains near death in a coma after a shooting incident; Kate Clare (the prime suspect in Cody's shooting and the murderer of a priest) remains on the run; and Jack continues to struggle with grief and guilt following the death of a Down's syndrome child entrusted to his care by Kate Clare and her husband.

In Cross, readers rejoin the former Irish policeman Jack Taylor, a man with a 'sharp tongue but a good heart' who has lost all hope in religion, a man in pain who remains haunted by many episodes in his past, and a solitary man whose most steady and reliable companions - except for one or two people - are alcohol and music.

First, as the action begins, a university professor wants Jack to look into the problem of stolen dogs, but that doesn't do much to excite Jack's investigative instincts. Then a much more interesting and challenging case comes along when Jack is approached by Ridge, his good friend, the police officer whom Jack secretly loves. Ridge tells Jack about the brutal murder of John Willis: 'They nailed him to a cross and mounted the thing on the hill above the city dump.' There are no leads in the case, the police have nowhere to go in their investigation, and Ridge knows that a solution (even if found by proxy with Jack doing the investigating) would be 'a career-maker' for her.

So, Jack - with very little else going on in his life that is worthwhile - decides to help Ridge by looking into what happened to the unfortunate John Willis. What Jack ultimately discovers is a complicated pattern of bitterness, anger, and vengeance, and on the way to the solution - which is in many ways even more shocking than the crime itself - others will die, and Jack - feeling as though nothing worthwhile remains for him in Galway or Ireland - contemplates a powerful decision that would mean he must finally turn his back on everyone. But then, as if his life hasn't been complicated enough, a shocking development will force Jack to reconsider absolutely everything - and everyone - in his life.

Ken Bruen is the highly respected and popular author of seventeen previous novels, he has won numerous awards, and his many fans will be more than satisfied with Jack Taylor's latest appearance and performance in Cross, a highly recommended mystery thriller that ought to be packaged with a warning label: 'WARNING: THIS NOVEL IS DANGEROUSLY DARK AND BRUTALLY AUTHENTIC APPROACH WITH CAUTION!'

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